Leslie Barlow commissioned to create 2022 State Fair Commemorative Artwork

Leslie Barlow’s commission for the Minnesota State Fair’s Commemorative Art Program

Leslie Barlow joins Minnesota art luminaries including Ta-coumba Aiken, Mary GrandPré, and Adam Turman in earning a rare honor: having her artwork appear on the official Minnesota State Fair poster. As part of the fair’s Commemorate Art program, Barlow’s oil painting will be reproduced as a poster and a limited-edition print.

“I was thinking of my own experiences at the fair,” Barlow tells Sahan Journal’s Alex V. Cipolle. “I didn’t see my own story represented in previous artworks.”

The luminous image of friends enjoying the fair was based on her own love of the Great Minnesota Get-Together growing up in Minneapolis, and her painting includes an Easter Egg, nodding to that experience:

She loved the giant slide and arcade. Her family was “obsessed” with pork chops on a stick. A memory from when she was around 11 sticks out: She was playing the ring toss–a game that is 100 percent fair and not at all rigged–and landed one of the colorful rings on a bottle.

“This is a story my family always brings up,” she says laughing. Barlow won a giant stuffed dog toy. “It was bigger than me; I couldn’t physically carry it.”

Her father carried the dog on his shoulders in the heat for the rest of the day. It then sat on the family’s porch for years.

Barlow is the first Black woman and woman of color to be commissioned in the Commemorative Art program, which launched in 2004.